Rosa Point, Mile High Ridge, Villager Peak, Rabbit Peak
By: George Wysup
I noticed in the schedule that Tom Hill was to lead Rabbit and Villager. I had been trying to figure a good way to bag Explorers on these 2 peaks. [For the uninitiated, an Explorer route is an HPS term for a third substantially different route to a peak.] What if I went to Rosa Point first, then ran Mile High ridge to Villager and on to Rabbit? Sure, that would be different enough by my loose standards.
I had done basically this trip in 3 days, but in the reverse direction, in Nov, 2000 and didn't remember anything being particularly difficult. But my aging memory tends to selectively discard unpleasantness. And most things especially, tying my boots- are just becoming more difficult for me to accomplish.
I checked out the miles and gain on my topo map. Hmmm- 6.5 miles, 4400' gain to Rosa Point; then 3.2 miles, 1500' gain to the Villager ridge; then 1.4 miles, 1000' gain to Villager summit. That's only about 11 miles, 6900' gain on the first day. How heavy would the pack be? Well, a summer bag, a bivy sack, a sleeping pad, food, a few incidentals ... and a lot of water. How much water? With moderate temperatures 8 liters should do it, and add another liter for a margin of safety. At 2.3 lbs per liter, including bottles ... that comes to about 21 His of water. So maybe a pack weight of 40 lbs. It looks feasible, but not in hot weather. After all, I am Burt Falk's age and, like him, fast approaching geezerhood.
One problem- I don't want to do this alone- I need companions, strong companions. Amazingly, I actually get positive responses from the e-query I sent. From Bill Simpson, who is capable of doing this while carrying all my water in his pack; from Bill's friend Sylvia Swinford, who has done some monster hikes; and from Greg Daly, who I am sure can do this if the pace isn't too frenetic. Some other strong hikers also responded, but managed to think up face-saving excuses to bail. I must mention that Bill S has hiked the cactus-to-tram trail twice in a single day. Yeah, he may not be totally sane, but ,he's quite pleasant to hike with.
Another issue- we must get this done in 2 days because the others have important things to do on Monday. But a third day is an option if bad stuff happens. Yes, I know; Tina B. day hiked this set of peaks to prepare for her recent 2x triple list finish. If I were 75 pounds lighter maybe I could do that. No, I couldn't.
I accumulated all my gear, food and water and packed it. It weighed in at 41 pounds. There was nothing I could safely get rid of The latest forecast was for 38 degree temp with a moderate wind Saturday night on Villager ridge.
Greg and I slept at Thimble trailhead (elev. 940') in perfect weather. A full moon (minus a day) made lamps unnecessary. Bill and Sylvia met us in the morning and we commenced hiking at 5:30. The Tom Hill group was to depart at about 8 am, and we rather wanted to beat them to the camp. On the other hand a fast pace might kill the mission. So we hiked at a gentle pace across the desert floor and up pretty Palo Verde wash to where we ascended the ridge through a cholla garden. There were a few good-natured complaints about having to descend 300 feet to cross Palo Verde again. Our pace got us to Rosa- and lunch- shortly after 11 am. I am enjoying both the hike and the company of this good-humored group.
The only concern is that the wind is quite strong, but not dangerously so, and the temperature is lower than we expected. We figured to have a surplus of water. They stared at Mile High ridge. It looked long and there were a number of significant undulations. But no one complained. The going was no worse than we had already done until we neared the Rattlesnake Canyon saddle (4230'). Here we had to negotiate about 400 ft of steep and loose downhill.
During a short break at the saddle we contemplated various routes up to Villager ridge, where we would join the use trail. No route looked particularly good. We decided that a route pretty much straight west along a shallow ridge looked best because a lot of dry grass indicated that the ',footing might be decent. We were somewhat disappointed to see the other group cruise by, but we were happy for them.
We negotiated the almost 800 ft ascent with no major difficulty. The 'first priority was to decide how much liquid to stash there. I deposited about 2 quarts there. The 4 lbs seemed not to lessen my pack weight at all. We all still had enough energy to go on to Villager. We arrived at the Tom Hill, et al, camp at around 5 pin. I'll speak for myself- I was quite beat and I wondered if my legs could carry me to the Big Bunny tomorrow.
The weather was much cooler and windier than the forecast had implied. I donned all my clothing, but my legs were still cold. I think as a result of being cold they began cramping, though I had consumed plenty of food and Gatorade on the hike in. We all retired at about 6:30. Despite some shelter, the wind howled around us and the heat re-radiated quickly into outer space through the clear air.
Greg usually thrives on little sleep. He commented that he got 2 nights worth of rest. His first call of nature was answered at 10:30- well before he usually goes to bed. I was toasty enough in my 32 degree down bag and half inside m biv sack with a ridge rest foam pad between me and the ground. Wearing 2 fleece hats, 2 pair of wool socks, all my top layers, and my hiking pants served me well.
I arose at 6:15 and noted that there was ice in my water bottles. One camper's thermometer had registered 26 degrees early in the morning. As usually happens with bivy sacks my exuded body moisture condensed out on the inside of the sack and soaked the outer layers of my sleeping bag. I don't like to use a bivy sack for that reason, but at least it is light in weight. My legs were lactic acid sore but at least the cramping didn't persist.
We got a (rather late) 7:30 start for Rabbit, several minutes behind the Tom Hill group, and signed in on Villager. Hiking with only 2 liters of water and no sleeping gear was a pleasant change. I measured the route from Villager summit to Rabbit on my GPS. The answer was 4.05 miles each way. The terrain is quite easy but the undulations result in an elevation gain of about 2100' plus 1100' on the return to Villager. I was hiking quite slowly, more because the pounding hurt my sore quadriceps than from being tired. Sylvia suggested I pop a couple of vitamin "I" pills (ibuprofen). She was correct, of course. Hiking without quad pain was similar to getting a second wind. Hiker Jennifer Washington told me that a recent study indicates that vitamin "I" may combat Alzheimer's disease. Learning this I was tempted to down the entire bottle.
We returned to camp shortly after 2 pm and took our sweet time packing up and eating lunch. It was obvious that headlamps were in our future. But no matter; I have been there, done that more than once on this hike and I had entered a batch of waypoints into my ETREX. We departed camp at 3:30, following a fine use trail, and reached about 2300' elevation before needing to don the lamps at 6:20. Even with clouds obscuring the (slightly past) full moon we had no problems hiking in the dark, not even with the rugged crossing of Rattlesnake wash, and we reached the vehicles at 8 pro. My dear friend Jennifer had, so thoughtfully, left some strawberries and some chocolate caramels for us. That was just what we needed to perk up for the drive home.
I estimate the stats for our hike to be 26 miles, 10100' gain over 2 days. Fortunately, a good part of the hike is on good use trail. The terrain is mostly class 1, with a few areas of easy class 2. Note to a prominent TIPS multi-list bagger: NO, it's NOT class 5.1 and there is no need to grind steps in the rock.
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